The Raiders dropped a lawsuit against NFL Properties a day before the trial was scheduled to begin, according to published reports July 12, 2003. The dismissal marks the end to eight years of litigation between the team and the league over the Raiders' claims of trademark violations.
Holly House, an attorney representing the NFL, told The Oakland Tribune: "We were frankly amazed. The Raiders just dropped their remaining claims a day (July 8) before the trial was supposed to begin."
Raiders attorney Ken Housman told The Tribune in a prepared statement that the team decided to drop the case after both the Raiders and NFL agreed that the Raiders' "trademark license agreement with the league's affiliate (NFL Properties) will end on March 31, 2004."
Only two of the Raiders' 22 claims survived in pretrial hearings in Santa Clara County (Calif). The team reportedly informed the state court in early July that it would drop the remaining allegations, the NFL's law firm, Bingham McCutchen, said in a statement.
"There was no settlement," NFL attorney James Hunt told Bloomberg News. "It was a surrender."
The agreement between the league and its 32 franchises cover the licensing and sale of team merchandise and sponsorship agreements with major corporations. The Raiders reportedly complained about the agreements because the profits are split equally among teams. Raiders merchandise is annually among the top sellers for NFL teams.
Judge Rejects Injunction Bid
The Raiders claimed that the Bucs logo, which features a skull over crossed swords, and the Panthers colors, which include silver and black, violated their trademark rights under state law.
But Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge John Herlihy said in his ruling issued April 18 that the interstate clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from getting involved in such matters. Herlihy wrote that "team colors and logos, and the rivalries and competitions that these colors and logos symbolize, are integral to the business of professional football and necessary to maintain the professional league structure."
Attorneys for the Raiders claimed that the NFL ignored their objections to the new Bucs logo (introduced in 1997) and to the colors adopted by the Panthers when that team entered the league in 1995. Since the early 1960s, the Raiders logo has been a man with an eye-patch wearing a football helmet in front of crossed swords in silver and black colors.
Herlihy said that any claim that one team's uniform infringes on the trademark rights of another would have to be settled in federal court.
The trademark infringement claim is part of a lawsuit filed by the Raiders in 1996 against the league and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Herlihy previously dismissed 11 other claims by the Raiders, but two claims reportedly remain alive in the case - one regarding the actions of NFL Properties and the other dealing with the team's rights to sell advertising on the sidelines at home games.
Silver And Black Defense
The Raiders contend their rights were violated when the league let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers use crossed swords in their insignia and approved "ebony and pewter" colors for the Carolina Panthers. By a 3-0 vote Jan. 28, 1999, the state's 6th District Court of Appeal upheld a judge's ruling allowing the Raiders take those claims to court, rejecting the league's contention that arbitration was required.
The claims are part of a suit, filed in February 1996, accusing the NFL of mismanagement in its merchandise sales and of unfair treatment in retaliation for the Raiders' previous suits against the league over the franchise's move to Los Angeles in 1982. The Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995 and have a separate suit pending against the city and Alameda County over their stadium lease.